- - Sunday, February 21, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When I was a smart aleck college student I had a sign on my dorm door that read: “Reality is for those who can’t handle drugs.”

Maybe the 2016 version should go like this: “Bernie Sanders and socialism are for those who can’t handle reality.”

Socialism’s comeback is mystifying to most clear-thinking people. Do people who support Sen. Sanders and socialism walk around with shutters over their eyes so they don’t have to observe the reality of what is happening in the world around them? The remarkable thing about the rise of Bernie Sanders is that his popularity runs in the counter-direction to how socialism is actually working.

Liberals used to point to places like France, Italy, Greece and even Cuba as worker paradises that offer citizens lots of free things — child care, health care, higher education, food, housing, a guaranteed income with high minimum wages. Today they are basket cases and in many of these nations the government bonds are junk status.

Greece, of course, is modern socialism on steroids. The nation is in de facto bankruptcy because Athens can’t cover the runaway costs of all the free things the government offers — government pensions, paychecks, medical exams, or welfare benefits. Fifty percent of young people don’t have a job and over half of Greeks retire before age 60. The wagon is full and no one is left to pull it.

Greece isn’t alone. Argentina, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France — as well as the United States — experimented with quasi-socialist governments in the last decade. Almost all of these countries are in recession or have anemic growth. The comeback of socialism and the obsession with redistributing income and wealth through confiscatory tax rates — helps explain why so many of the wealth producers and employers are on strike.

Who wants to invest when the political leaders are threatening to take most of it away for the “common good?”

Bernie Sanders points to “socialist success stories” like Sweden and Denmark, but even they have been mugged by a reality that free things for those who don’t work for it can be a recipe for disaster. Now they are moving away from pure-bred Bernie Sanders socialism as we move toward it. Sweden, for example, has cut its corporate income tax and eliminated its inheritance tax — positive steps. As refugees pour into Sweden, the voters are wondering whether the nation can continue to provide so many free services without running out of money.

Here at home, we have a “progressive” president who has presided over an economic mess, and now all the Democrats can say as voters rage against the cascade of false promises of “hope and change,” is that we didn’t go far enough in the socialist direction.

Mr. Sanders proclaims that “the economic system is rigged” — a talking point that Hillary Clinton is now shouting out herself. The rich aren’t rich because they’ve achieved things — as the narrative goes — they are rich because they’ve cheated. It’s a perverse way to denigrate accomplishment, risk taking and work.

If there’s any rigging going on, it’s in Washington. Consider Hillary Clinton who’s never achieved much of anything outside of politics and she’s a multi-millionaire.

Last week, the Heritage Foundation released its Economic Freedom of the World index. It should be required reading in every high school and college.

Economic freedom is, of course, the opposite of socialism. Nations that are economically free have free trade, small welfare states, low taxes, a light hand of regulation, private ownership of the means of production, and the rule of law. Countries that are economically free have five times the average income ($55,000) of countries that are the least free ($9,000). Not only that, economic freedom is also highly correlated with better education, improved health, and a cleaner environment. The poor do better in nations that are economically free and worse in Bernie Sanders land.

In short, countries that are economically free are healthy, wealthy, and wise. his reality seems to be lost on those high on the drug of socialism.

Stephen Moore is an economic consultant with Freedom Works and a Fox News contributor.

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